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Am I a Good Ally?

Am I a “Good Ally”?  What does this even mean; how does one determine the value of one’s ally-ship? Should it even be a consideration?

I have many privileges afforded to me in my UK-based lifestyle.  I am not poor (although the bar for the definition of poor seems to be constantly lowering); I am white; I am educated; I present as able-bodied about half of my time; I am cisgender; I am heterosexual, and apparently look like I am.  I appear to conform in many ways.

I have my intersecting experiences of discrimination; I am female and I am disabled, and live with clinical depression.  Within those identities are further experiences of discrimination, for my lack of societal conforming good looks such as being fat and having a ‘gifted-size’ nose.  I have experienced much discrimination but it can also never be denied that I have experienced much privilege.  I am guessing I will continue to experience both.

Being an ally to those who experience discrimination that I benefit from due to my privilege is something I feel incredibly strongly about.  It is fraught with many considerations and fears.  Am I speaking over those who should be at the forefront of the fight? Is my white woman shouting silencing my sisters of BAME identity ?  I see it with the male ally to feminism being lauded for the slightest act of discovery when women have been screaming the exact thing for many years, apparently into a void.  I know my white, educated voice is more likely to be heard and respected than a person who has not got my education or whiteness.  That’s the very nature of the privilege I am afforded.

Guilt goes along with that privilege, and it should.  Not the guilt of the creator of the privilege, but of the person benefitting.  I recognise that I am not responsible for the creation of the privilege but I very much am responsible for the ending of it.  That is the fundamental definition of myself as an ally.

So far, so wordy.  It’s all for nothing without action.  My disabilities have limited my activism more and more to online and in writing, although I will still be at a rally if I can.  Visibility is important, more so than any other form of activity, so I will carry a placard with pictures of those who can’t make it on there; a show of although I am one, be aware that I carry many others with me.

I will use my privilege to fight that same privilege.  But I will only do so if I am not speaking over those with experience.  If I can support a sister of BAME identity I will do so and it must be at the expense of my own voice being heard.  I will be heard if there is the space given to me to do so.  That is my rule.

I have become aware that this rule may be problematic.  It may stop me from speaking at all.  As a woman, I am raised to be nurturing, to put others ahead, to say “no, you first” and indicate forward with bowed head to let others pass.  I need to be braver as an ally.

I need to stop worrying about staying silent and speak forth.  If I don’t, then my silence is complicit in perpetuating the prejudice.  It’s okay to be wrong, to make mistakes.  It’s okay to be called out because without being called out you cannot know what you are doing, what I am doing, to make the situation worse.  Being called out is a gift not an embarrassing attack.  The language used to call out is that of a person or people long oppressed and if I cannot understand the anger, pain and frustration behind it then I think I am missing the point.

As one woman said, “Excuse us if we don’t always smile politely after you stomp on us.”  Damn right.  We should thank you for taking the time.  If anyone starts any sentence in response to a point made with “but not all…” then Ally101, they are missing the point and not being an ally.

No advancement in social history has ever been made without acts of violence.  Think about it – the suffragettes in the UK both enacted property and personal violence, and were on the receiving end of truly vile state sanctioned violence.  Likewise the ending of the slave trade in the United States, the 1960s Civil Rights movement, the Stonewall Riots and so on.  The violence is not one way; the discriminated-against have been on the receiving end for so very long that it truly is a war.  I don’t want that to happen but I damn well understand how it does, and to dismiss it with racist stereotypes like the ‘angry black woman’, or the criminalised black male, or to emasculate gay men as ‘feminine’ thereby inviting society’s approbation exclusively by conforming to the masculine ideal of strength and physical  dominance, is dismissing and provocative.

Project for a W.E.L.L. online event - taken in Greenwich 5.6.12

I know which side I will be on and it won’t be the one whose privilege I share.  That is what I will do.  That is my Ally Pledge.

Am I a good ally?  I have absolutely no idea.  But I want to be and I work to be.  That’s all any of us can do.  That’s all that ALL of us should do.

 

Thank you to the strong and open women who allow me to reap the benefit of their knowledge for the inspiration for this.  If they see this, they’ll know who they are

Self-Righteous Silencing OR The Kuenssberg Conflation

38 Degrees, a very popular and populist independent campaigning group, recently took down a petition objecting to the political bias of journalist Laura Kuenssberg because of sexist and misogynistic comments made by very few commenters on social media.  Their reasons for making such a decision can be found here.

Laura Kuennsberg

The first female Political Editor to be appointed to BBC News, Laura Kuenssberg.

It had been claimed that 38 Degrees themselves supported sexism by allowing the petition to continue although research showed that of all the tens of thousands of signatures to the petition only one or two misogynistic comments could be found as evidenced by the google cache of comments as at 11th May 2016 at 9.29 pm GMT.

This is silencing of the worst type.  It takes a very serious issue such as sexism and misogyny experienced by women in the media spotlight and uses it to suppress any dissenting opinion and political viewpoint.

Laura Kuenssberg has a track record of proven bias towards the right wing parties most particularly evidenced in the recent elections across the United Kingdom along with her colleagues.  This petition was intended to give voice to those objecting to such bias and was addressed to Ms Kuenssberg as she is the Political Editor of BBC News at the BBC and fronts Newsnight, the flagship BBC political broadcast.  It was suppressed, based on false and/or misleading accusations.

Sexism, misogyny, indeed any form of discriminatory language, is faced by those who are female/BAME/transgender/disabled/poor/working class/non-heterosexual all the time.  It is nothing new, and indeed the twitterati have been discussing misogyny and violent language directed at feminists for a very long time (since the inception of Twitter, basically). So why was this petition taken down, and why was it this petition and only this petition that was attacked?

I strongly believe it was to silence those who object to the clear bias of Ms Kuenssberg and the BBC’s political department.  It’s no coincidence that this happened right before the BBC Charter is up for debate and renewal, and it is a relief to read today that the government will not have the draconian powers it wished to have. Yet.  But this is not a blog about the BBC.

By throwing accusations of sexism and misogyny at the petition, however truthful, the point of the petition was lost and the debate was gas-lighted into self-righteous congratulation at ‘supporting’ a female who was being abused.  Where is the support for all those women who are abused elsewhere?  How convenient for those who wanted the petition gone to have an opportunity of proving themselves as non-sexist in suppressing the voice, ignoring the fact the petition itself was not sexist at all.

If we allow this to continue, then anyone who does not like what a person is saying, or a group is doing, or a campaign point of view, can get a group together and write some reprehensible discriminatory commentary on social media, and hey presto! All opposition is suppressed and silenced and it is for ‘good reasons’.  Somebody is indeed ‘thinking of the children’.

I am a feminist.  A rampant feminist, as I have been called in the past and embrace as a compliment.  I oppose sexism and misogyny in every form.  I am an intersectional feminist; I strongly believe equality of opportunity cannot exist if any form of discrimination still exists.  It is absolutely right to object to the sexism and misogyny which is addressed to anyone, whatever their political leanings and however reprehensible one might find their personal activity.

It is absolutely unacceptable to suppress and silence using unrelated anti-discrimination rhetoric as the reason.

We saw the same thing recently with the anti-semitism scandals in the Labour Party being broadcast far and wide (background and more in-depth discussion of this here) whilst the racism in the Tory Party being barely reported upon or discussed (link is to an old story, as an example).

Rightly, racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia must be confronted and has no place in modern politics.  Wrongly, the fight is not being applied equally and is being used to silence opposition and suppress dissention on entirely unrelated topics.

Self-righteous silencing makes me feel sick to my core.  It suppresses dissent.  It perpetuates the very discrimination it uses to silence.  There is very definitely sexism and misogyny being directed towards Ms Kuenssberg, and that is wrong.  That as the first Editor of BBC Newsnight to be female it was to be expected she would face such sexism is both depressing and wrong.  That does not mean she is not biased in her reporting, nor that the BBC has been proven to be biased towards the right wing parties in their political broadcasts and news coverage.  The two topics are not mutually exclusive.

Up to HERE I am (indicates point well above the International Space Station)

I’ve had it up to HERE! (indicates point above the International Space Station).

If the support for those suffering discrimination was honestly intended and truly felt, it would be applied across the board regardless of those who are suffering at the hands of such discrimination.  That it is not is very telling.  It is a politics of black-and-white.  Of no grey areas.  Of conflation of ideologies.  There is sexism throughout society, just as there is racism and all other forms of discrimination.  To use the fight against such discrimination to suppress voices of dissent is insupportable.

I for one have had more than enough of the self-righteous silencing.

I expect you have too.

 

Tattoo

Beat.

I am an artwork. I am a story.  My pages are turning, filling, spidery writing scrawling the beats of my life.  I am not finished.  I will never be finished.

Beat.

I am the beat of my heart.  My body is the outward expression of my inward journey.  Each tattoo strikes with a rhythm of pain overcome and autonomy regained.  Strength ever growing and determination building. Beat, and I will overcome.  Beat, and I will win.

Beat.

Betrayed, used, lied to.  Physical compatibility belied emotional vulnerability.  I was told I must separate, move away from friends.  We were fine together, but hate was all I would get from ‘outside’.

Beat.

I gave my love and he gave his hate, the hate of his friends he said, but the truth was his insecurity.  I could be with him.  Only him.

Beat.Upper right shoulder blade tattoo

I left him. I took back my power, and inked my mark of separation.  Chosen image to divide from his potential destruction.  Tattoo’d to reclaim my body.  I wear a different body to that which he tried to destroy.

Beat.

Self-inflicted hate of my shape, formed and incepted by those of you who told me I was wrong, defiled by my self-worth. My largesse was gross heresy to the ideal I should be wearing.

Beat.stomach tattoo

I took my self-loathing and drew on it.  My design, a decoration worthy of me.  Needle stabbing a permanent tribute to my value.  I will give invitation-only viewings of the glory of my art, if I judge you worthy of access.

Beat.

Confident, phoenix arisen.  New design, a simple aesthetic in reflection of my passions.  A distillation of culture, of history, of curve and of shape, coalescing in perfection on the slope of my back.

lower back tattoo

Beat.

I am not your object to mould into submissive perfection.  I am my canvas to adorn as I please. Make your assumptions as I make my body my own and my soul dance all over my skin.

Beat.

Complementary Yes, Alternative No! – Cancer Treatment

cancer cells

Hull York Medical School image of Cancer Cells. Pretty image, nasty cells.

I am a member of a couple of CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia) support groups on Facebook.  I have many friends who are trained in and offer a range of alternative therapy treatments.  I myself have undertaken a course in homeopathy and am a qualified trained reflexologist (with ITEC, although this has lapsed due to physical health issues; I was unable to practice).  I understand and support holistic treatments with as wide a range as is possible and proven efficacious (whether placebo or not, placebo can work if the patient believes it will).

One thing I will not put up with and will object to strongly is when complementary therapy is offered as alternative, and conventional medicinal cancer treatments are advised to be ineffective (at best), or to be tools of a profit-driven pharma giant intent on perpetuating damaging health procedures which will kill or make the condition worse (at worst).

This is dangerous.  This kills, and has done.* Let me be clear, I am not talking about prevention, but treatment.  Living a healthy lifestyle is a good idea, and nutrition, exercise, general maintenance etc. is a positive step.  Furthermore, as long as complementary medicines are not contraindicated by scientifically/empirically proven conventional practice, I see no harm.  By contraindicated, I mean that some complementary treatments directly affect the efficiency of medication that may be prescribed by doctors/oncologists – for example St. John’s Wort is commonly used to treat depression (and has a proven positive effect, although why is still debated) but will reduce the effectiveness of other forms of medication (in my case, my epilepsy medication at the moment but also some cancer treatments which I will need in the future).

One of the problems of a privatised healthcare system is that it, like any system which has a profit motive at its core, will be treated suspiciously by those who are reliant on its services.  The UK is lucky in that at the moment it has the NHS, which provides some protection against a purely profit-driven motivation in healthcare.  Capitalism is inherently riven with abuse; we see that in the garment industry with sweat shops, in the sex industry with trafficking, rape and abuse (still called sex work/prostitution by the media which enables abuse to continue, in my opinion), even with the poor and vulnerable in society forced into low-paid work and substandard housing for the sake of more money in the landlord and/or shareholder’s pockets.

Complementary medicinal practice is also profit-driven, a fact which seems to be forgotten.  Just as with conventional medicine, this means it is also open to abuse but unlike conventional medicine, there is no registering body or oversight practice which protects those seeking complementary treatments.  Especially where there is private/insurance-led healthcare systems, this is open to the con artist seeking to profit from the very real fears of patients and those who care for them, and those who fear diagnosis.

I have read a great many ‘alternative medicine’ posts and watched many videos since my diagnosis 2 years ago.  What I find with almost all of them is a lack of empirical evidence or source data from which they are drawing their conclusions.  There is a lot of correlation proves causation, and poor pseudo-science written in very convincing language.  I have research training to degree level; I am able to discern from the language used and from my own research what is worth following up and what is merely quackery (as I saw one video call conventional medicine, at the same time as state that is what conventional medicine calls ‘alternative medicinal practice’).  The citing of historical methods of treatment as being seen at some time as ‘alternative’ is taken to mean current alternative treatments will be accepted as being as effective as already proven treatments available in conventional medicine.  This may be true but it is not proven at the current time, despite scientific testing.  To state this is to play on the hopes and fears of people who have a disease which if not treated at all WILL kill them.  I find this reprehensible fear-mongering.**

There is talk of ‘sources’ and even of murder of alternative therapist providers by ‘big pharma’.** None of which is proven, but when those of us who are living with a cancer diagnosis read this, we are scared.  Trust is very important between a patient and a care provider.  These articles are deliberately vague but give enough data to be read as very believable.  They destroy trust and create more fear.  They are very much about ‘alternative’ therapies at the expense of conventional treatment, but not through informed decision-making.

Access to the internet and social media posts has exacerbated this situation.  Constant posts even in online support groups can give false hope.  The line between conventional and complementary therapies and the seeming inability for conventional medicine to work with complementary therapies doesn’t help.  Far more complementary therapists are willing to work with conventional practice than the other way round, and this leaves the patient in a frightening, confusing position.  Both need to work together, not pull apart.

Treatment is about the whole body.  Complementary therapies are as much about the mind as the body and that is vital in creating an optimum environment in which one can rest, recover, and revitalise.  Alternative therapies are about profit as much as they say conventional therapies are.  But worse, much worse, is that they kill.  All we can do is raise the point though.  There is nothing we can do to stop this, and people will die as a result.

It’s immoral, unethical and certainly not an alternative, unless we mean an alternative to life.  Don’t take my word for it; I admit I have a bias.  I am very much an empiricist; I rely on data, factual information, the scientific method and proven effectiveness.***  I am not a faith-based person, that is not my character.  What I ask is that you do your research, go deeper than the links I have provided, apply critical thinking and seek others to help you.  Research source information, check out the background of websites you utilise – who are they and what is their motive?

It’s your life.  It’s your loved one’s life.  Make it a good one.

cancer bitch

Seriously, cancer, you can just do one. Now. Go on, go. Off you toddle…

*http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/what-do-doctors-say-to-alternative-therapists-when-a-patient-dies-nothing-we-never-talk

*http://whatstheharm.net/whatisthis.html

**http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/is-the-u-s-medical-mafia-murdering-alternative-health-doctors-who-have-real-cures-not-approved-by-the-fda/

** http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/actor-jishnu-leaves-message-death-alternate-therapy-no-substitute-cancer-treatment-40876

***http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative/about/

***http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=2656

***http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/complementary-therapies

 

love, not anger; love, not hate

What is there to say?  On the morning of the attack, so many go about their daily routine.  Cogs in the engine of a larger machine which itself powers more parts of more engines which fit together with some pushing, some shoving, some square parts in round holes.

We don’t speak the same language, all of us, but we do feel the same emotions; we fear, we love, we panic, we hate, we despise, we care, we comment, we stay silent.  We are overwhelmed.

Some of us need to find reasons so strongly we point to the most obvious culprits, without proof, without understanding, but with a fear and desperation to find the catalyst so that we can avoid the same thing happen to us.  So we can stay away from the threat, send those who might to other places so we and our loved ones are safe.

Some of us fear the reaction more than the action. We see the hate for people who do not resemble us.  The easy targets, little realising that this is how those creators of fear, the terrorists, want us to view those who are not us.  We see exiles in our own community, pushed away, segregated by the minority of racists who are so loud, so vicious with their words and actions, segregation becomes a chosen state out of fear.

Fear begets extreme action begets terror; from the racist and from the terrorist, although who can say which is which.

Stronger measures, more checkpoints, but does that create a safer place or a more fearful people? No easy answers, just aching hearts and a desperation that the world is getting smaller but the borders are building higher walls and people are locked into mindsets which become cemented and brittle.  Broken and burned by the anger they feel and perceive.  The hate we are shown again and again and again in our media tells us we are right to fear the ‘other’.  We are right to mistrust, misled into complicity.

Love.  I cannot hate because that is a downward spiral which leads to a nation, a world of anger and depression and repression and oppression.  To binary positions never to meet and compromise, to exist in complementary ways.  To blind faith in oneself above all others.

Love. I cannot blame all those who look a certain way for the actions of such a small group of fanatical extremists.  I will not.  I should not.  I hope not.

Love. It is difficult to love those who hate so strongly, whose aim is to maim and kill and hurt. The target is not just those who are not the same as them, it is also those who are the same as them but who choose to stand up for life and liberty and compromise and co-existence.  They may have commonalities but the heart, the truth of the person is so far removed from the fanaticist the fearmongers have more in common.

Love. It is not weakness. It is strength.  It is hope.  It is the way forward. Love for the survivors, the families of those who are gone, the people affected, no matter where they are from or who they are or seen to be.

Love for people.  Love for the future.  Love is the one thing I cling to, however hard it may be some time. Teach and enact respect, acceptance, care.  Recognise and understand difference, even when we are not shown the same in return.  Especially then.  Love when it is hard, as well as when it is easy.

The alternative is to hate, and that is the pathway the terrorists take.  I will not give them the satisfaction. I will love them too, and pity them for the pain they create and the pain they live in.  At least, I will eventually.  Probably.   I will try.

Because hate is the most damaging of all. My victory will be love. For all. Including you.

Mandela love not hate

 

 

Brutally Honest – Women of the World Fest 2016

At the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank in London, there has been a week-long festival based around International Women’s Day on 8th March 2016. Brutally Honest Live Art posted an appeal on social media asking for women to take part in an installation where 100 participants write what they want on sandwich boards and then stand for an hour around the Festival Hall. Then wait and see…IMG_1626

Now that intrigued me; quite an experience and a worthy one. I signed up. I had two wants in mind before I even did that; anyone who know me knows events like this are like catnip to me. I must stick my head above the parapet for what I believe. It’s a less a choice, more a compulsion.

I have been thinking about activism a lot, as my disabilities in winter cause increasing pain and a more reduced mobility than is normal. I read complaints that signing petitions is pointless, that no-one pays attention, and I know that physically often that is all I can do. Going on a march, where often it may not be possible to drop out halfway through or the routes are beyond what I can manage, are not always an option for me. I’m not the only one. Invisible in society normally, the protestor with disabilities is not just invisible at protests, but entirely absent

I had conversations with many people as a result of my sandwich board. One lady told me of her mother, nIMG_1631ow using a walking stick and occasionally in a wheelchair. She told me of the shock and anger she now feels in public, as her mother is shoved and pushed as she walks slower and less steadily than those around her. No apologies, no acknowledgement of her mother’s existence, let alone her humanity.

Another woman came to me almost as soon as I stood still at my spot, stood by me and told me of her book club, where she had had to read some awful old ‘classic’ which she hated, but which left its final words in her conscious. “as he removed her hat and saw all her grey hair, his passion for her died.” The invisibility of the old, so similar to that of the disabled and often for the same reasons. To see that which you fear to be is confronting, but it should invite compassion, understanding and empathy, not fear.IMG_1635

So many other people stood as well, and we moved occasionally to speak with each other and to groups of onlookers. So many photos taken, so many interesting and inspiring stories told and to tell. We just stated want we wanted; openly, honestly, no matter what it was. From a want of publishers, to floor tiles, to being able not to know what you want, to smaller boobs, it was witty and sometimes poignant. All the truth.

I wore the sandwich board for an hour. Once, a man yelled “right wing!” at me, a comment which still has me and possibly him confused as to what he actually meant. Mostly it was big smiles, “I like what you’ve said”, and other positive comments. From other people with disabilities that were visible, the smiles were bigger, the nods more meaningful. The comment I was not expecting, and which still leaves me humbled and grateful, was from an old lady. Small, wrinkled and spare, with long luscious grey hair, she looked at me and said “I really appreciate you writing that. Thank you.”

I did not expect that, but that’s why I did it. I don’t know why anyone else did it but I imagine it is because so often women put others first, we are taught that our wants are secondary and not to be expressed without embarrassment or a feeling of greed. I did it because people are made invisible for so many different reasons and I want to speak up for myself and them. I did it because I could. I did it to tell my truth.

I did it because it is what I want.

IMG_1636

Yes, All Women – International Women’s Day 8 March 2016

International-Womens-Day-Logo

Because every day is International Men’s Day.

Yes, All Women

Because ‘Not All Men’ exists,

And ‘Yes All Women’ inspired ‘Yes All Women Jokes’,

Jokes designed to perpetuate and denigrate.

And self-proclaimed feminists and allies will repeat ‘Not All Men’.

Refusing to understand.

Believing in some way that patriarchy is the act of individuals

Instead of a system of political and social suppression

That has subjugated women for hundreds of years.

Restricting men, from the zenith.

Imprisoning women, from the nadir.

Feminisation is bad.

Masculinisation is good.

We are all in Animal Farm.

 

Because still the gendering of everything,

Leads to the valuing of nothing.

Female is less, male is more.

Cis is best, trans is poor.

White is good, any other colour is bad.

Insult a man by emasculating him.

Insult a woman by emasculating her.

‘pussy’, ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, ‘whore’.

Homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia,

Racism, sexism, ableism.

So many isms, all divide, all oppress.

And Yes, All Women intersects.

 

Because 1 in 3 teenage girls* will experience domestic violence

At the hand of their boyfriends.

And think it is deserved.

Because those are the relationships not ‘othered’, despised, rejected.

Straight is okay, straight is not ‘gay’.

Gay is so ‘GAY’.

Because we are electing people who believe gays caused the floods.^

And that disabled people should be sterilised or aborted.

And that marriage between same gender lovers is somehow

Destroying traditional marriage, which has only existed for

A few hundred years anyway.  In the UK.

Because skin colour should not disenfranchise, yet it does.

 

Because our government says Female Genital Mutilation is illegal

Yet in 20 years no prosecution.

Instead deporting mothers and daughter to suffer greatly.

Deporting to a risk of FGM and legal rape union,

(or forced marriage as it is known)

All the better to hide it with.

Pass the buck.

Pass the pain.

Ignore the responsibility.

Let down by the government and the ECHR.

And because I know my white face will be listened to

More than the women of strength such as Leyla Hussein

Hero of the anti-FGM movement.

 

Because terms such as ‘honour killing’ and ‘sex trafficking’ are used.

Softening the truth of the misogynistic abuse.

Not sex but rape trafficking.

No honour, just religious or familial murder.

Acts of violence against girls and women who did not comply enough.

Stoned to death.

Lashed.

Beaten.

Forced to give birth, legs shackled.

Constant threat of death.

Children begetting children.

Females slaughtered for their sex.

No hope, no education, and murdered for the thought of it.

Valued only for their womb.

 

Because sex education is all about the physical

And nothing about informed, enthusiastic, updated consent.

And the majority of the how-to comes from pornography.

A pornography increasingly homogenised into ‘same’.

White, nipped, tucked, bleached, shaved, plastic.

Vaginaplasty.

Labiaplasty.

Plastic and plasticised.

To be other is to be fetish, not mainstream.

Not being white, able-bodied or straight is deviant.

A deviant sexuality therefore wrong.

Creating fear, entitlement, expectation and pain.

Where there should be strength.

Pleasure.

A clear ‘Yes’ and a respected ‘No’.

 

Because a third+ of all people in this country believe

It is in some way the woman’s fault.

Her responsibility, her provocation,

That causes her rape and her victimisation.

Women and men, combining to perpetuate.

To further the pain.

To remove the right to self-autonomy.

To make it not real, not scary.

Blame the victim, avoid victimisation.

And because and because and because.

Because of course not all men, we know that.

But yes, yes and yes

YES.

ALL women.

© Tina Price-Johnson  17 June 2014

yesallwomen

* http://www.nspcc.org.uk/news-and-views/media-centre/press-releases/2009/09-09-01-teen-girls-abused-by-boyfriends/09-09-01_teen_girls_abused_by_boyfriends_warns_NSPCC_wdn75755.html

^ UKIP – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-25793358
^ UKIP – http://www.kentonline.co.uk/gravesend/news/gravesend-ukip-candidate-geoffre-a57680/

+ http://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/uk-new-poll-finds-third-people-believe-womens-rightss-rightss-rightss-rightss-rightss

pledge for parity

 

The Silencing of Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY — Pictured: Melissa Harris-Perry, Anchor — Photo by: Heidi Gutman/MSNBC

Melissa Harris-Perry  is a respected and renowned political commentator in the United States, who had a regular slot on MSNBC on weekend mornings, in which political and social events were dissected and analysed. She is a black woman with a doctorate in political science, and currently teaches at Wake Forrest University having previously taught at Princeton, Tulane and Chicago Universities. She is overqualified, some might say, to educate and facilitate discussion in the upcoming United States elections for candidates to stand as President is next year’s election.

She was taken off air as the competition between candidates for both the Democratic and Republican parties heated up. MSNBC continues to cover the elections, but an educated, respected, extremely popular, more-than-qualified commentator with a wide following was removed from the screens.

She was silenced.

This is the most overtly racist act of a network that I can think of, above and beyond the obvious bias of Fox which we have all come to expect and many of us, perhaps naively, laugh at. They know her worth, her reputation, her unflinching reporting and that she is not afraid to confront issues uncomfortable to those sitting in privileged seats.

The silencing of Melissa Harris-Perry is not funny. It is dangerous and divisive and oppresses a voice that is essential in the political quagmire that is United States politics at the moment. When Black Lives Matters is central to the political process, when black men, women and children, both cisgender and disproportionately transgender identifying, are being murdered in the streets even by the lawgivers who purportedly are there to protect them, the silencing of Melissa Harris-Perry seems to be a complicit acceptance of this status quo and a determination of the media to maintain the murder rate.

When I shared the story on Facebook, I was shocked to be told by one of my friends that I was the only white woman who had shared the news. I now see it has been reported in the UK media but still it seems to be silent on the sharing front. I understand this, because it happened in the United States and it is probably because I am in so many political activism groups and discuss politics a lot, that many of my UK allies will not have seen it. But once they have, why not share? Why not speak out? Why does it always seem to be those who are black who have to be sharing the news?

In my opinion, being an ally means being supportive, stepping back and listening, analysing my own experience and my own behaviour in order to modify it, but it does not mean expecting those who are oppressed to do the heavy lifting themselves. There are loads of white women out there writing about feminism, inequality, intersectionality, but where are the shares of practical experience and highlighting of incidents such as these?

We are complicit in the silencing of Melissa Harris-Perry if we do not speak out about it. We are silencing her as much as the network which took her off air and will only put her back on if she does not insist on the editorial control she had beforehand. Without her voice, black voices whisper. Our complicity in this maintains the ‘angry black woman’ narrative  that diminishes the lives and the truths we don’t want to hear because it may unsettle us, it may shake us from our comfortable lives of white privilege.

They have silenced one of the most powerful political black female voices in the United States at the moment. She is an independent voice, not tied to political parties, and that makes her even more dangerous. This is shameful. By silencing Melissa Harris-Perry, they silence millions of women, millions of black people, and if allies don’t speak out, we are giving our silent approval of this act.

And what is worse than this, in the United Kingdom we don’t even have a Melissa Harris-Perry to be silenced.

Shame.

black lives matter

The Dudeney Test: The Role of Men in Film

watching films

Since the controversy at the upcoming Oscars with regard to the pitiful representation of people of colour in the cinema there has been open dialogue about the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of the film industry, peaking at white male representation.

The DuVernay Test is proposed as a discussion start for assessing the representation of people of colour (the preferred US term and given the predominance of the United States in film production and promotion and its domination of the film world, the one I am using) in the Western first world; I applaud and support this fully.  It sits well alongside The Bechdel Test which is a basic tool for assessing the representation of women in film.  Both tests are flawed in that any basic list of rules will require further discussion to clarify the points being made, but both provide an invaluable method of first assessing and developing an understanding of the inequality of representation in film.

“But what about the men?” I hear the disjointed cries of MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) plaintively wailing across the ethernet.  “Good point” says I, shocking them so much that they probably fainted in unison, then got up again deeply embarrassed and giving each other pats on the back to pretend it didn’t happen.

I was discussing with my friend James Dudeney, Brotherwife™ to my Sooterkin™ and I.  (Brotherwife is derived from a Sci-Fi novel, and makes sense when you know the context).  He raised the question of why there is no similar test for men and we agreed it would be a fantastic way of pointing out how the privilege endowed by patriarchy also limits the roles of men, and that this limitation is generally tied to the feminising and devaluing of character traits and/or roles which the genders are expected to conform to.  Many an MRA bemoans the stereotyping of the male, which they are right to do, but they tend to blame the victim (women/girls and any intersectional identity a person may have) and attack the symptom, completely ignoring the reality of society and the root causes of the problem.

Men have no need to implement the Bechdel test; films are full of men talking to each other as they make up most of the cast.  The DuVernay test will be applicable to men of colour, but not necessarily specific to the patriarchal representation of men.  James created a short list that would be useful in addressing the issues specific to men in film.  I tried, but it ended up being very, very long due to my inability to STeffU:

The Dudeney Test:

  1. Do the men in the film talk about anything other than women, sport, cars, or violence?
  2. Are all their relationships with women sexualised?
  3. Are they useless in domestic tasks?
  4. If they share their emotions, or display affection towards other men, are they treated in a derogatory manner, such as implications of femininity or homosexuality?

 

In and of themselves any of the above topics may not be a negative factor within the film; the context in which the topic is presented can change this, as can the conclusion of the film.  I am also not a fan of censorship so would never say these things should not be said.  However it is vital that such expressions are given context and do not form the dominant ideology within the film industry.  At the moment, they are the mainstream context and are the mainstream ideology and that is damaging to all.

MRAs also, in and of themselves, are not necessary a ‘bad thing’.  The website Men’s Rights Activism has recently ended its posting of original articles, but as you see they still promote articles which have intersectional equality at their heart.

MRA summaryFeminism is about ending patriarchal oppression and modern feminism is intersectional; sadly patriarchy itself has led to the majority of MRA sites being dominated by men wishing to maintain patriarchy and blaming feminism for the ills patriarchy creates.  However we already have a word for an ideology trying to create equality for all genders; ‘Feminism’.

I believe The Dudeney Test should become a standard starting point to discussions of male representation in film.  If MRAs want equality for the men who they erroneously and against all modern research they believe are the oppressed gender, and they claim they do, this test should be applied by them especially, but everyone as a creator and/or member of the audience.

I’m thinking of a list to do with disabilities too, if I can successfully edit myself to a decent length.  One day, maybe, a combination of the tests mentioned could be used to try to get fairer representation of all people in the film industry.  It matters, especially in family-oriented films.  Children learn by example and I want the example to be fair and positive, for all.

TAX… What’s the point?

Tax avoidance. It may be legal, but is it ethical or moral?

In the words of Nevyn

Yes folks, I’m supposed to be writing an essay… Which is why I’m on here😉

Don’t worry, I’ll try to make it quick…

So, Tax*. What’s the point right? Why do I have to keep putting my hand in my pocket just for somebody else to benefit? We’ve all said something similar… Now, don’t tell you haven’t… And don’t go assuming I’m accusing you of being *ist about this… Alright, let me put it this way… TRIDENT. There you go… Why should you put your hand in your pocket (tax for the slow of uptake) just for somebody else (The makers of trident) to benefit?

So, yes… there are areas that lots of people agree that tax shouldn’t be used for… Bombing Syria? Building fences in Calais? Keeping the Royals? Paying MPs ‘expenses’? Building specially adapted homes? (One of those things I really DO believe the money from my…

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